Little was expected of the San Francisco 49ers entering the 2011-2012 season. The team was coming off a 6-10 campaign that saw a pair of head coaches (Mike Singletary and Jim Tomsula) jettisoned, making way for rookie coach Jim Harbaugh leading Alex Smith, a perennially disappointing quarterback – all underscored by a lockout-shortened offseason.
It was a recipe for disaster. Even when San Fran started 8-1, I wrote that the 49ers were playing with house money, that whatever transpired over their final seven (or more) games would be just fine with this longtime fan. (Note: My wife would probably disagree with that last statement, calling my mood after the team’s playoff loss to the Giants “ridiculous” and “childish.”)
Expectations are much different in the Bay Area as the 2012-2013 season gets set to kick off Sunday afternoon in Green Bay for the scarlet and gold.
San Francisco pushed its chips to the middle of the table this offseason, retaining its key free agents while adding others to bolster areas of weakness.
On offense, the team’s previously underwhelming receiving corps now includes Randy Moss (yes, him), Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham and first round pick A.J. Jenkins to go with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. In hopes of keeping stud halfback Frank Gore healthy for another 16-plus games, the 49ers added former Giant Brandon Jacobs and drafted Oregon’s LaMichael James in the second round. Smith, coming off what was easily the best season of his eight-year career (61.3 comp. pct., 3,144 yds, 17 tds, 5 ints), will have a multitude of weapons at his disposal.
Meanwhile, San Francisco’s defense, which finished second in the league in points per game last year, returns all 11 starters, and has a chance to be historically dominant. If Harbaugh can even come close to recapturing the magic of his AP Coach of the Year campaign, the sky’s the limit for the 49ers.
What a difference a year makes.